By on February 14, 2022

While electric vehicles get the most press whenever they go up like a match, it’s important to remember that combustion vehicles pioneered burning themselves up back when the horse was still considered a viable transportation option. Things are better now of course, with flaming cars being primarily relegated for important riots, large-scale sporting events, and decoration along the West Side Highway. We can also add high-speed chases taking place in the United Kingdom to the list because there’s reportedly a bunch of BMW police vehicles that are giving new meaning to the term “heat.”

For the last few weeks, various departments scattered across the U.K. have been issuing advisements not to use certain diesel-powered vehicles in pursuits that exceed the speed limit. It’s a rather curious request, though one that’s allegedly tied to a serious incident from 2020 that killed Police Constable Nick Dumphreys. 

PC Dumphreys died in January of 2020 on the M6 motorway near Cumbria, with the press originally calling the incident a tragic accident. However, later investigations appeared to indicate that his diesel-powered BMW caught fire before the wreck, encouraging other departments to begin looking into the matter. By the end of 2021, several departments had opened investigations into pursuit vehicles equipped with the automaker’s N57 3.0-liter straight-six diesel engine and opted to keep them off the road.

In January of 2022, The Chronicle reported that Durham Constabulary had similarly advised against using N57-equipped cars not to engage in any high-speed chases. As news spread of there being a possible fire risk, BMW issued a public response saying that the problem would be limited to police vehicles due to aggressive the way in which they’re driven.

As the N57 is reserved for the Bavarian automaker’s “high-performance pursuit vehicle,” a fire hazard that has a propensity to manifest during the very task that gave it its namesake is pretty embarrassing. Car and Driver reported on the situation in February — suggesting fires that took place in 2016 (Kent), 2019 (Liverpool; London), and 2020 (Swindon) were all related.

With the BMWs under observation, Durham said it would be leaning on Peugeots equipped with 1.2-liter turbocharged engines to handle traffic duties. But other departments seem less worried, especially considering the N57 is an older powertrain that’s currently in the process of being phased out.

From Car and Driver:

BMW was first named as a “key supplier” to police forces in the U.K. in 2010 by the National Policing Improvement Agency. The 330d Saloon Interceptor was particularly selected as a “high-performance pursuit vehicle” at the time. The N57 engine has been superseded by the newer B57, meaning the newest at-risk car is now more than three years old, and volumes will diminish as police fleets replace older models.

Many constabularies are choosing to move away from BMW altogether, and these days police-liveried Volvos an increasingly common sight on Britain’s roads. And, yes, the Swedish company does indeed remove the 112-mph speed limiter that is fitted to all the cars it sells to civilians.

Meanwhile, BMW has continued assuring the public that any fire risks were exclusive to law enforcement.

“This issue is associated with the particular way in which the police operate these high-performance vehicles. This unique usage profile puts extra strain on some components and therefore BMW has specified a special servicing program for these vehicles,” stated a spokesperson for the brand. “There is no need for action on any civilian vehicles.”

Perhaps not. But Brits sitting behind a 3.0-liter N57 still might want to take it easy on the motorway. Something tells me this story will be cropping up again, either to better explain the isolated nature of the fires or to formally announce a recall.

[Image: Sussex Photographer/Shutterstock]

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20 Comments on “UK-Based BMW Police Cars Banned from Pursuits...”


  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Fascinating.

    Meanwhile, here in the U.S., there are about a half million Hyundais and Kias that have to be parked outside because of fire risk.

    https://apnews.com/article/hyundai-kia-recall-vehicles-fire-risk-c9e33f02721b2a7510595ae3ceda9029

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      My 09 Sedona was recalled for the same thing back in 2020/21. The dealer ran a fused wire from the battery down to the anti-lock brake thing to fix it.

      It’s a bandaid designed to limit the power delivery to the unit if it shorts out, I guess. Not sure why the factory fusing can’t do that already, but maybe it has to do with whether the key is on or off.

      I remain a H/K fan, but their recall parade has been quite steady for a long time. My personal cars have hardly been affected, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Had I kept my wife’s Santa Fe, I believe this would have been the 3rd recall due to fire risk. The year range matches up anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        What manufacturers haven’t been hit with some sort of recall? I can only think of Koenigsegg having just a single $1.3 million dollar car recalled for a TPMS issue. I still like h/k. Good winter-testing spy shots of the Ioniq 6 are on some of the automotive websites. It has to be one of the least “EV-looking” EVs I’ve seen so far. Looks like an ICE sedan. For lower-priced vehicles (whatever that is these day), I probably still trust h/k the most.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I eagerly look forward to the usual suspects telling us that liquid fuel-powered vehicles are inherently defective and need to be banned until manufacturers figure out how to make them viable.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      I know, and I got only 350 miles on my last tankful of gas.

      RaNGe AnXiETy iZ sO rEaL

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        You’re lucky you don’t have a GT500. Only around 200 miles range for that.

        https://www.edmunds.com/ford/shelby-gt500/2020/long-term-road-test/#:~:text=You%20expect%20poor%20fuel%20economy,range%20from%20most%20electric%20vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        FreedMike

        Could be worse…Car and Driver did a long term test of a Ram TRX, which gets a rollickin’ 10 mpg. And it takes premium. Based on that, someone who drives 15,000 miles a year would spend a touch under five hundred bucks a month on gas.

        Yeehah!

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          This is the reason my F-350 resides in its spot in the driveway when not towing my 16k lb horse trailer. 11 to 12 mpg going to get groceries in town is a bit of a wallet emptier.

  • avatar
    Margarets Dad

    I’m a lifelong New Yorker and I’ve never seen a car in flames on the West Side Highway. But what would I know that some obnoxious punk from Michigan doesn’t?

    You’d been talking about leaving NYC. Have you done it yet? Good riddance Matt, we deserve better than you.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Margaret – I sincerely hope that your dad didn’t teach you to call people names when you were growing up. It really doesn’t add much to a conversation and really tends to show that a person has nothing of value to say to support their position in the conversation. If he did teach you to use name calling to attempt to denigrate others, I am truly sad for you.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Do we have moderators here anymore?

  • avatar

    There are high speed pursuits in England? In the country that gave World “Black Sabbath”? I thought that England unlike us (Russia or USA) is a civilized country and nobody runs from police and puts lives of unsuspected drivers into risk.

  • avatar

    And why BMW SUV and not beloved Ford Mondeo AWD which is fast car even with 2.0L Ecoboost. And it looks better too and is less expensive and considered to be a British car like Jaguar. Hell why not Jaguar if they are ready to waste money anyway?

  • avatar
    Eaststand

    This is what happens when you start making your engines with an insane amount of plastic instead of metal

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    High speed pursuit in the UK is something of a misnomer. Just how fast can you pursue someone while driving a Cortina, Zephyr, Hillman or other British vehicle? I always laugh when watching British shows from the 60’s to 80’s and the police are driving these vehicles which were dangerously slow in North American traffic. And unreliable. I expect to see the police pushing their cars during a chase.

    Or watch the original Lavender Hill Mob, with the police cars in pursuit ringing the little bells attached to their vehicles.

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    • BMW’s are awesome
    • Diesels are awesome

    I know these two ‘facts’ because I read stupid Car & Driver as a stupid teenager.

    (Fortunately I never threw any money away on a BMW – I’m not *that* stupid.)

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